Author Archives: amoyaan

Stuck in Alternate Realities

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The Buddhists have a cool saying:

The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.

It’s a sobering thought, but the vast majority of people are trapped in the prison of their own mind. Life is perceived only through the filters of mind, creating a kind of alternate subjective reality that is superimposed over objective reality. We don’t perceive things as they are, we perceive them as we think they are, based upon layers upon layers of conditioning and mind-gunk. Freedom is seeing things as they are, as opposed to how we THINK they are.

We live life with a continuous mental commentary running in their heads. Every single experience is processed through a filter of our thoughts, beliefs and prejudices. It is then neatly distilled into a story in our minds. A story. That’s it. We relate to life through a veritable library of mental stories. We so rarely experience reality as it is. Instead we’re stuck in our interpretations, our stories of what we THINK reality is. We no longer inhabit objective reality, we’re stuck in our little subjective, alternate reality bubble.

This is the cause of so much suffering, in our lives and in the world. This is the reason that all wars are fought and all conflict arises. My thoughts (which I am totally identified with and which I think comprise ‘me’) are contrary to your thoughts (which comprise ‘you’). Deep down we know that our thoughts and identity are ultimately hollow and that’s why we then have an unconscious compulsion solidify our sense of self and sadly most people do that by attacking and making enemies of those we deem to be ‘opposite’ or ‘other’. But none of it is real. Byron Katie poses an interesting question: “who would you be without your story?” The answer can be summed up in one word. Free.

The Creative Life: How to Overcome Self-Doubt

Reblogged from my Dreamlight Fugitive Blog

I’m excited to be relaunching my Dreamlight Fugitive blog in addition to my main blog, Beyond the Dream! My first new post is about something that affects everyone in any creative field: the arch-enemy of creative expression…self doubt!

Illustration by Jack Spellman (jackspellmanart.co.uk)

Yesterday, having finally finished my new novel after a year and a half of work (and the rest! But that’s another story!), I was clobbered over the head by an attack of self doubt. I’d just ordered proofing copies yet I found myself going back and picking away at random sentences, trying to find better ways of stringing the words together in order to reach that most elusive of writerly goals: the ‘perfect sentence’!

One thing led to another and I soon started to question the entire book. What if it wasn’t ready to be put out into the world? Feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction quickly turned to feelings of anxiety and dread. What if I was in fact one of the worst writers ever to pick up a pen or hammer away at a keyboard? I’m safe at the moment, but the moment the book is published it’s a target and as the one-stars reviews come flooding in, I’ll be revealed as the terrible hack I am! I even very briefly considered binning the entire book and starting again from scratch.

That’s how self-doubt works! It’s a vicious, pernicious and potentially crippling little monster. It hides away in the darkest recesses of the mind and is prone to jumping out at inopportune moments and letting rip with its penchant for woeful catastrophising. It’s something that every artist and writer must learn to live with and it does get easier with time.

Most of the time I have it under control. But coming to the end of a project, when you are actually taking the steps to releasing that work into the world, makes the self-doubt monster terribly antsy. Stirring from its slumber like a cat that was only really half-asleep the whole time, you know the meltdown is inevitable.

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“You’re thinking of publishing THAT? Are you crazy?! It needs at least another year of work. The critics are gonna tear it to shreds!”

Now, a little self-doubt is healthy. It gives us a certain objectivity about our work, which is useful in the editing stage (and throughout, really). It becomes harmful however when it degenerates into an overwrought, mud-slinging, anxiety-ridden neurotic monster, determined to convince us that nothing we do is good enough and that we’d be better off setting it aside and slumping onto the sofa and firing up Netflix. So pervasive and persuasive is the self-doubt monster, it’s almost certainly destroyed countless artists’ careers before they’ve even had the chance to get in the game. Left unchecked, this inner censor will not only hinder your creativity, it will completely destroy it and leave you a blubbering and, above all, blocked wreck!

The self-doubt monster is actually pretty easy to deal with it however. And here’s how.

First of all, take the ‘self’ out of self-doubt. It has nothing to do with who you are. It’s simply a thought and that thought’s corresponding emotion. It’s actually completely impersonal. We all get it — everyone, in every walk of life! It’s certainly not unique to us. Self-doubt is basically fear. It’s a defence mechanism designed to somehow keep us safe, even if it is a little misinformed and ultimately wholly counterproductive. Depersonalising it immediately takes the sting out of it.

Secondly, once I’ve depersonalised it, I personify it. This might make me sound utterly crazy, but I find it helpful to give it a name and form. I call my self-doubt monster Fred. Fearful Fred. He looks like a big, fat and slightly ungainly grey caterpillar. Most the time he just wiggles about in the recesses of my mind, doing whatever it is caterpillars do. Occasionally however, something gets Fred riled and he gets all worked out and inflates in size, becoming a gargantuan blob full of his own hot air. This happened last night when I somehow convinced myself I was the worst writer in human history.

I isolated the emotion in my body (it seemed to be around my belly, or solar plexus) and I decided to have a chat with Fred (as the personification of my self-doubt). He was beside himself with fear, anxiety and dread. So I made him a cup of tea, sat him down and explained that I’m grateful he’s so diligent in looking out for me, but there was no need for such stress and worry. Yeah, it’s always a little scary releasing a new piece of work into the world, as it probably is for a baby bird being pushed out of its nest in the hopes it will fly for the first time. But I reminded myself the importance of keeping everything in perspective.

I wrote an article last year about the power of karma yoga. Karma yoga isn’t a sequence of physical postures as you might expect, but a mindset with which we approach life. As it says in the Bhagavad Gita, we have the right to act, but the fruit of those actions is not up to us. So the karma yoga attitude — which is the greatest antidote to stress that I know — is simply to do our best and let go of the results. Once an arrow has been fired it’s no longer up to us whether it hits the intended target. Chances are we’ve done our best to ensure that it does, but it’s now under the control of a set of natural laws and dynamics that are completely outwith our sphere of influence. All we can do is relax, take it easy and endeavour to take whatever comes with good grace.

The self-doubt monster can be an implacable and relentless foe to any creative person. It’s probably cost me years of my life. I’m certain I’d have more than one novel published by now if I hadn’t spent years under the sway of Fred, bless his heart. Now I’ve learned to master my mind and emotions a little bit more. This doesn’t mean that self-doubt and other self-limiting thoughts vanish forever. But it does mean that when they come up I can put them in their place and simply get on with things. As the Tao Te Ching says:

Mastering others is strength; mastering ourselves is true power.

Self-doubt and anxiety are defence mechanisms generated by the unconscious mind to keep us safe. But we are safe! As artists we follow our calling, we write the stories and paint the pictures that our muse is kind enough to share with us. We learn and grow and improve our skills all the time. We make mistakes, but mistakes are an essential part of the learning curve. Never be afraid to make mistakes! And never allow yourself to be held prisoner to the tyranny of other people’s opinions. Some people will love what you do, and some people won’t. Some people are fair in their criticism and some people are jerks with clear psychological deficiencies (I now refrain from reading comments sections on youtube and other websites because of this!).

Learn to wrestle with your self-doubt monster. Or make it a cup of tea as I do. Usually once I’ve had a firm but loving chat with Fred, I imagine sending him off on an all-expenses paid vacation to Tenerife where he can just relax in the sun all day drinking Pina Colada while I get on with what I have to do.

Self-doubt is ignorance masquerading as truth. Don’t let it cripple you. Take charge of it and educate it. You’re doing fine, let it know that and these lagging parts of the mind will eventually catch up. When we no longer give fear or doubt power over us, when we educate them and put them into perspective, we give ourselves the greatest gift of all. Freedom! And freedom is the ultimate goal of all creative — and moreover, all human — endeavour! So dance with your doubts and allow yourself to be free.

This fantastic song and video by one of my favourite artists, Bat For Lashes, is about just that. This was the song that Natasha Khan wrote after a long spell of creative block, and it’s very much about learning to tame and dance with the monsters of self-doubt, despair and fear. Enjoy.

Blogsuscitation!

Hi everyone. It’s been a long while since I’ve written a proper blog entry. I feel it’s probably necessary to start off with a little bit of blog resuscitation! Stand back…

Closeup of defibrillator paddles

Ah, that’s better! I’m happy to announce that…

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There are a number of reasons for my absence, but the main one is that I’ve been so busy finishing off my new novel. It’s taken an inordinate amount of time and energy over the past year and a half, but I’m delighted to announce that it’s finally done and the book will soon be on its way to be proofread. I’m looking at a Summer launch, and very excited about finally being able to share this work with – you! Entitled THE KEY OF ALANAR, it’s a story that’s close to my heart and has been with me most of my life (I initially began working on the ideas when I was only sweet sixteen). It’s wonderful to know that I’ll soon be able to share this journey with the rest of the world — and it is quite a journey!

With a new novel release planned, I’ve decided to live dangerously and commit myself to not one, but two blogs. First of all, I will be relaunching this blog and have a number of ideas for posts, a number of which will tie into a self help book I intend to release later in the year. I’ll be sharing more about this project in the months to come. I also intend to write a great deal about vedanta, and take some time to unfold this ancient science of enlightenment and self knowledge. It’s been one of the greatest blessings in my life and it’s going to be amazing to share it with you.

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My other blog, The Dreamlight Fugitive, will be dedicated to writing, fiction, art and the creative process in general.

I hope you will hop on by and follow it, because I intend to update it weekly and have a great many cool things I’m going to share, including sneak previews and behind the scenes of my new novel and also a lot of insight into the process of writing and publishing a book. I intend to relaunch it in the next few days, so do check it out at – https://dreamlightfugitive.wordpress.com.

Well, this hasn’t been the most exciting of posts, but it’s been a necessary one – we have a pulse again, and I’m looking forward to blogging regularly again. I’ve missed you guys.

Life owes us nothing

FR-11x14-Life Is A Gift (Grey Aqua Coral)

A great many people operate under the unconscious assumption that life owes them something. Which is not only untrue, but actually creates a great deal of misery and resentment because the reality of the situation simply doesn’t match up to that.

Life doesn’t owe us a thing. It’s already given us everything we have and everything we are. It’s given us a body, mind, intellect, and provided for our every need; air, food, water, shelter and everything else we need to survive. All we really have to do is put food in one end and allow our body to do all the work digesting, functioning, healing, growing and developing, forever maintaining its own homeostatic balance. And yet we still think that life owes us something?

The attitude that life should somehow be better and that it should match up to whatever ideas we have in our minds, is a total fallacy. Our wants and likes and dislikes mean very little objectively. Life doesn’t care what we want — we’re not special, we’re just part of the totality and the totality takes care of the totality, making little concessions for little human egos. Sometimes we get what we want, if the circumstances are conducive, but oftentimes we don’t because what we want simply isn’t that important. Assuming there are no obstructions, life simply gives us what we need. I’ve found that this realisation shifts our attitude from one of entitlement, frustration and often bitterness to one of complete humility and gratitude. We actually need very little in life. So long as we have food, clothing and shelter, things pretty much take care of themselves.

The Ufaina tribe in the Colombian Amazon believe that when a person is born, a small amount of vital force is ‘borrowed’ to them and that when they die, this energy is released back to the totality where it gets recycled again and again. Essentially, we’re all living on borrowed life energy, in a borrowed body.

We assume the body is ours but if it was, surely we’d have had some say in its selection and more control over its functioning. The body is actually just this object that appears in our awareness, functioning more or less autonomously as long as we put the appropriate stuff in and let the appropriate stuff out. If our body ‘belongs’ to anyone it surely belongs to our parents  because it came from them….what a thought! But their bodies don’t belong to them either.

It’s all just borrowed, for a finite amount oftime! Eventually we have to give it all back, because it’s a debt that we owe life for simply existing in this world.

When you realise that life owes you nothing and in fact you owe life everything, how does that change the way you look at life, the way you live and the attitude with which you greet every day? For some reason it’s surprisingly liberating when you cease holding up life to ransom and recognise that the very fact you exist is not a ‘right’, but an amazing gift and one that could actually be taken back at any time!

Tao Te Ching 54: Living With Integrity

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- 54 -

That which is well planted in the Tao cannot be uprooted.
That which embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Those who honour the Tao
will be honoured from generation to generation.
If the Tao is cultivated in your life

you will become genuine.
If the Tao is cultivated in your family
your family will flourish.

If the Tao is cultivated in your country
your country will be an example

to all countries in the world.
If the Tao is cultivated in the world,
then virtue will be with everyone.
How do I know this is true?
By looking within myself.

~

Commentary

To simply read and try to understand the words of the Tao Te Ching is insufficient. Each verse is an invitation to embody and actually live the wisdom of the Tao. This verse again emphasises the virtue of coming into alignment with the Tao; which is not so much something to be striven for, but simply allowed to happen. When we clear the obstructions to our true nature, we can be firmly planted in the Tao and nothing in the world of the ten thousand things will be able to uproot us.

The effects of being at one with our nature, with the Tao, spread outward like ripples across the surface of a pond, for in truth nothing exists in isolation. This allows us to cultivate the way of the Tao in all our actions and interactions: in our family life, our work life, among our friends and gradually the effects will spread outward to encompass our whole country and world. Even if the effects are subtle or seemingly invisible, they are there nonetheless.

By changing ourselves and coming into alignment with the truth of our being, which is simplicity, ease, harmony and freedom from covetousness and greed, we make it easier for others to do so. The Tao isn’t about an abstract set of concepts and beliefs — it’s about living a life of integrity, peace and harmony with the whole. This is the greatest gift we can give to the world.

If you have enjoyed this series on the Tao Te Ching, it is now available in a collected volume in both paperback and ebook format on Amazon! Be sure to check it out.

My Tao Te Ching book is now available to buy!

Hi everyone! I’m pleased to announce that the paperback version of my Tao Te Ching book is now available on Amazon and is currently on sale at cost price. The Tao Te Ching is a remarkable gift, and I wanted to be able to share it as such.

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Five years ago I set myself the challenge of creating my own version of this ancient text. I wanted to encapsulate the best of my favourite translations, retaining the text’s integrity and poetic flourish while making some of the more cryptic statements (of which there are a great many!) a little clearer and easier to understand.

I spent time reflecting on each verse and pondering the meaning of Lao Tzu’s words and then wrote a commentary on each one. I did this for myself more than anything, but decided to share it on this and my prior blogs. A lot of people have really enjoyed my take on the Tao, which has subtly evolved over the years as my own understanding has grown. Here is my introduction to the text.

I’ve been posting the content of this book in this blog for almost two years now, and will continue to do so until I have posted all 81 verses. If you’ve enjoyed it and want to have the complete work to hand, then this is for you! It’s been available to download on Kindle and Smashwords in ebook format for some time now, and the paperback edition looks beautiful I have to say. It’s a book that’s great for keeping at your bedside and dipping into for a little inspiration and insight.

Click here to view the book on Amazon US

Click here to view the book on Amazon UK

It should also be available in most other territories. The Smashwords ebook edition (which includes Kindle, ePub and many other formats) can be found here)

Hope you enjoy!

I’ve also just finished my second novel, which follows on from ELADRIA. It will be published in the Spring, along with a whole range of surprises. It’s a work I’m very proud of and a story that has been with me most my life. I can’t wait to share it with you. Hopefully now this major project is out the way, I will be able to get back into a more regular blogging routine!

Tao Te Ching 53: The Great Way

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- 52 -

If I have even a little sense,

I should walk the Great Way,

and my only fear would be straying from it.

The Great Way is smooth and easy,

yet people prefer the devious side paths.

That is why there is corruption.

While farmers lose their land,

government officials spend money

on weapons instead of cures

and the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible

while the poor have nowhere to turn.

To wear fancy clothes and ornaments,

stuffing oneself with food and drink,

amassing wealth to the extent of not knowing

what to do with it,

is like being a robber and

is called the crime of excess.

This is not in keeping with the Tao.

~

Commentary

Lao Tzu noted the flaws of society around 2,500 years ago and sadly those same flaws are still very much evident today: the crime of excess, of accumulating ever-more money, possessions and power while others are penniless and starving. Why should we function like this? To behave in such a way is to be out of alignment with the Tao.

The Great Way of the Tao is the essence of simplicity itself, but it’s not a path that’s particularly attractive or alluring to the majority of people, whose egos are compelled by the accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of others. “Getting ahead” and “getting what you want out of life” is still the general modus operandi of our society. And it is the root of the corruption we see on individual and collective levels. Governments (and the various other institutions of society) focus on power, supremacy and strong economies rather than harmony, balance, equality and genuine regard for all. This is not the Great Way Lao Tzu speaks of — it’s one of the ‘devious side-paths’!

In order to live a life that’s in harmony with the Tao, in order to flow with life and achieve inner peace, crimes of excess have to go! This doesn’t mean we all have to become cave-dwelling ascetics. But it does mean that, while ensuring we take care of our basic needs, the real treasures that we pursue are inner treasures, which are treasures of the lasting kind. Are we willing to take the road less travelled and live a life in harmony with the Tao rather than be driven by the petty whims and desires of the ego?

It’s a simple choice, although not necessarily an easy one. But it is the choice between lasting peace and a life of perpetual craving, striving and continual frustration and dissatisfaction. Once the choice is made and the winding side-paths abandoned, “the Great Way is smooth and easy”. We step into the flow of life as never before.

Tao Te Ching 52: Know Thyself

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- 52 -

All things have a common 

beginning in the Tao.

All things issue from it;

all things return to it.

This beginning is the Mother of the world.

Having known the Mother,

we may proceed to know her children.

Having known her children,

we should go back and hold into the Mother.

By protecting the qualities of the Mother in us,

we will be free of sorrow.

~

Keep your mouth shut,

guard the senses

and life is ever full.

If you keep your mind from judging

and aren’t led by the senses and desires,

your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.

Knowing how to yield is strength.

To use your inner light for understanding

is the way of cultivating the Changeless.

~

Commentary

Gnothi Seauton were the words inscribed above the temple at the Oracle at Delphi. It translates as “Know Thyself”, which is perhaps the most powerful piece of advice ever given in the entire history of humankind. The root of all our problems is ignorance of what we are.

This verse of the Tao Te Ching advises us to trace all manifestation back to its source. Everything is this world has a common source – that source being the Tao, or the Mother of the world. Instead of getting lost in the world of the ten thousand things liberation is being aware of and rooted in the origin of all external form. In other words, observe the children (the form) but hold onto the Mother (the formless).

This means finding and realising the Tao at the core of our being. That is what is meant by Self-realisation. It is the doorway from the transient to the eternal.

The complete version of my Tao Te Ching translation and commentary is available from Amazon and Smashwords as a low-price ebook and very soon as a paperback edition on Amazon. If you’d like to keep the entire text to hand, this is for you!

Tao Te Ching 51: Hidden Virtue

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- 51 -

From the Tao, all life arises;

unconscious, perfect and free.

The virtue of Tao in nature nourishes them,

their family gives them their form and

environment shapes them into completion.

That is why all beings

spontaneously honour the Tao.

~

The Tao gives birth to all beings,

nourishes and cultivates them,

cares for them, maintains them,

takes them back to itself.

~

The Tao creates without possessing,

gives without expectation,

guides without interfering,

fosters growth without ruling.

This is called hidden virtue.

Commentary

The fifty-first verse is beautiful and poetic insight into the creation and sustaining of the universe. Form arises from the formless—that which we might call the Tao—but is never separate from it in spite of the illusion of a world of disconnected objects as perceived by our physical senses. The formless that gives birth to the form is ever within and around it, as its innermost core and essence. Is a wave ever anything but the ocean? The connection is never severed; the Tao continues to maintain, nurture and cultivate all it has manifested into the world of form.

The Tao might be seen as the ultimate parent, teacher, artist or ruler, embodying what Lao Tzu called ‘hidden virtue’. It creates and nourishes and cultivates without attachment to results or expectation of payback. It never interferes with or makes demands of its ‘children’. This is the true essence of love, a love that is utterly unconditional and ever-present. It is the life-blood of the universe and the force that keeps the planets spinning, the rivers flowing and our hair and fingernails growing. It creates out of love and only love, making no demands and harbouring no expectations.

The entire Tao Te Ching is an invitation to embody the Tao in our daily lives. What can we learn from this most profound example of hidden virtue, and how might we apply it in our lives? Can we realise and embody our essential nature to create, nourish and cultivate with the utmost love and without imposing any expectation, demands or interference?

Tao Te Ching 50: Transcend

We shall meet where there is no sorrow (photo: Stockvault)

We shall meet where there is no sorrow (photo: Stockvault)

- 50 -

Between birth and death,

three in ten are followers of life;

three in ten are followers of death.

And men just passing from birth to death

also number three in ten.

What is the reason for this?

Because they fear death

and cling to this passing world.

~

But there is one out of ten, they say, so sure of life

that they walk safely among wild animals.

When in dangerous situations, they remain unharmed.

The animals find no place to attack them

and weapons are unable to harm them.

~

Why is this?

Because they dwell in that place

where death cannot enter.

Realise your essence

and you will witness the end without ending.

Commentary

Lao Tzu speaks of four ways that people tend to approach life. The first two are by attachment and clinging to life, by aversion and fear of death (which are but two sides of the same coin). The cycle of attachment and aversion motivates and unconsciously governs life for the majority of people. The third way is simply passing through life vainly hoping that things will get better while fearing they’ll get worse. At the root of all this is a desperate clinging to life, brought about by a fear of death, which is caused simply by our ignorance of what we truly are.

The Sage, the rarest of people, has a different approach to life because he has surrendered to life. He has no fear of death, and equally no fear of life. There is nothing he holds onto and nothing he resists. He is at one with life. It is suggested upon realising his true essence and being rooted in that, the sage is impervious to peril and danger. Whether this is meant to be taken literally or not is a matter of debate. What it perhaps means is that our lack of resistance to life and death allows for a kinder, gentler passage through life.

This doesn’t mean that we will never encounter adversity or challenge, for such is the very nature of life. But it does mean that such adversity no longer has the ability to topple us. The Sage no longer fears death or is clinging to a fragile sense of self that can be shattered by the slightest event; a hostile encounter with a stranger, an argument or even the mildest of criticisms. The Sage therefore transcends outward circumstances, remaining at one with everything.

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